Reader Question: Should Guests Refuse To Pay For Internet At Hotels – Case: Sheraton/SPG

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Yesterday I received an email with a Reader Question asking for advise on a controversial topic, namely Hotel Internet and if he should refuse to pay for that.

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In times where there are free Wifi networks at every mall and public place as well as at pretty much every budget hotel it’s inconceivable how the big hotel chains can still charge their customers for using the internet.

Our reader had just such an experience and was put off by it, henceforth her email.

Dear John & Sebastian,

I’m currently staying for 8 nights at a Sheraton Hotel in Germany [which one wasn’t specified] and the hotel has a 14.00 EUR charge for standard internet PER DAY.

We booked through Expedia and none of this was mentioned in the hotel description.

I talked to the front desk and they are unwilling to waive the fee.

Thanks, Anna

Too bad she didn’t mention which hotel this is about but not matter what, it’s clearly representative of many properties and ironically enough even more so in the higher end bracket. And there is a reason for that: Those hotels that cater to business folks figure they can still collect extra revenue from business travelers who just expense the charge.

The big chains have now started to offer their loyalty program members, even those who hold basic entry level, complimentary internet as long as the stay is booked through the hotels own distribution channel (website/app).

You can access the Starwood Complimentary Internet policy website here.

Complimentary Internet Access. Beginning February 2, 2015, an SPG Member that books a Stay through a Starwood Website or an SPG App will receive: (i) complimentary standard in-room Internet access during the Stay if he/she is not a Gold Preferred Guest® or a Platinum Preferred Guest at least 24 hours prior to the Stay; or (ii) complimentary premium in-room Internet access during the Stay if he/she is a Gold Preferred Guest or a Platinum Preferred Guest at least 24 hours prior to the Stay (“Internet Access Benefit”).

In fact though, most hotels will still waive the charge as long as you give them your membership number at check-in and the system will verify it when the login page opens. If you are a member you could always politely argue that you understood it’s complimentary for all members and the likelihood to find a sympathetic ear is higher than for someone with no affiliation at all.

However I find these official rules rather draconian and borderline nonsense. Take this for example:

Q: Am I eligible to receive complimentary in-room Internet access if I make a reservation through a channel other than Starwood Websites and SPG Apps such as by calling a SPG Participating Hotel directly, by calling the SPG Customer Contact Center, by booking through an online booking tool or through a StarGroups website?

A: No. Complimentary in-room Internet access is only available for reservations made by SPG Members at Eligible Rates through Starwood Websites and SPG Apps.

That you don’t even get the complimentary internet (at least per the rules) when booking through Starwood by phone is plain nuts.

I recommend to always research things such as this in advance if you require internet and not rely on it being available free of charge – even in 2017.

Conclusion

To answer the readers question: It’ll be hard to refuse paying for it if they insist to get paid for the internet. Since it’s properly advertised that internet is chargeable there is really no basis to ultimately refuse payment – of course that doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate for it. I’d probably sign up for SPG and have someone put the membership number in, then negotiate again. Alternatively I’d find a public wifi spot (maybe in the lobby instead of the room).

Ironically you can stay at any low cost Motel 6, Holiday Inn Express and even Aloft (never seen any aloft that charged for internet) where you get free wifi. These big name chains need to get over themselves and consider the wifi revenue stream as a thing of the past.

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